For Judy Martin, being cancer-free for the last five years is something to celebrate, and she is continuing her mission to pay-it-forward. 

A few years ago she started an organization called The Bell Fund, raising money to help improve the chemotherapy experience for cancer patients at the MUHC.

The organization puts together ‘comfort kits’ that contain items Martin found helpful during her own breast cancer treatment.

The kits are handed out by volunteers on a patient’s first day of chemotherapy. They include a blanket for staying warm during treatments, a water bottle to stay hydrated, a magazine, mints to help with the metal taste during chemo, a pad and paper for taking down doctor’s notes, and a card of encouragement from an elementary school-aged child.

“We just try to reassure them that everything's alright,” said volunteer Heather Faith.

Martin named the organization for an old ship bell she introduced to the MUHC’s cancer treatment unit. Patients can ring the bell on their last day of chemotherapy.

“I always thought it should be celebrated,” Martin said. “It kind of allowed you to relax, because you're done, because it's a long process, and everybody reacts differently to the treatment.”

More than 4500 people begin cancer treatment at the MUHC each year, and gestures like the comfort kits and the ship bell are small gestures that can lift spirits during their fight.

“It sort of becomes a community rather than individuals struggling by themselves with the disease,” said oncologist Dr. Ari Meguerditchian. 

The Bell Fund relies on fundraising efforts to continue its work and Martin says she wants the organization to grow.

“We want everybody who's sitting in a cancer chair for whatever reason to think that they are comforted by somebody who is a complete stranger,” she said. 

Symphony for ‘The Bell’, a musical fundraiser for the Bell Fund, will be held at the Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul on November 19, featuring McGill’s I Medici (Physicians of McGill) Orchestra.